End Of The World As We Know It: Review of Smoking Gum Theatre’s Fallout
It should first be said that Fallout (2015) features a young playwright and a largely unseasoned cast, with one or two exceptions. Set in Sydney, Fallout tells the story of the immediate happenings, post-nuclear apocalypse. Hard driven business woman, Radford, finds herself locked in her bomb shelter along with her housemaid and pool boy. Meanwhile, across town in Bondi, a radio DJ discovers that she is the sole survivor at her station. Undeterred, she begins broadcasting out into the ether, unaware of whether anyone is even left to hear her.
This is an inherently interesting idea, and there are even echoes of Beckett here (Endgame is after all just around STC’s corner). Both Beckett and Lauren Pearce ask: how do we extract meaning from our surrounds in order to give our life purpose? This is a pertinent question, not just in the extreme situation of a nuclear holocaust, but in day to day life. Whether Pearce’s text actually engages with this existential angst is another issue. While Pearce broadly has good instinct, the play is in need of a workshop to flesh out the characters, create some conflict and tease out the themes. Of particular note though, the DJ’s side story was very well done and provided much needed colour and variety.
The cast – featuring Patrick Trumper, Ian Ferrington, Jim Fishwick, Moreblessing Maturure, Michele Conyngham and Louise Harding – was a bit of a mixed bag. The issue largely lay in the functionality of the ensemble as a whole. They were often unable to relate to one another, which effectively turned the play into six monologues. This may have been due to the lack of conflict written into the script, and to this end the actors were given a tough job to produce what wasn’t entirely there. Nevertheless, the piece is well choreographed (credit to both the actors and director Finn Davis). It may perhaps require a further tightening of pace, though this will surely come as the run continues. Special mention must go to Louise Harding who was the standout for the evening. Harding plays the lone wolf DJ, left to conquer the radio world after the nuclear holocaust has struck. There were several genuine moments from Harding, both comic and tearful, within which Harding successfully endured the toughest of roles – acting against literal ghosts.
In general, it is always necessary to test out new spaces, so that pub theatre can continue to grow. Nevertheless, the Exchange Hotel has no raised platform areas, which makes viewing difficult from any row other than the front. This is a shame, as we sometimes miss pertinent moments. This was the case in Fallout, where much of the action was played in the wings, on a small pile of boxes or on a stretcher bed, close to the floor. Fortunately, this could easily be fixed by raising both areas on rostra blocks. It is also worth mentioning that the sound, video projection and technical design of the show were both dynamic and well-orchestrated, a particular credit to Chrys Chandra, Angela Toomey and Bryce Halliday.
This may be far from a perfect show, but credit must be given to Smoking Gum for taking the chance on a new work. It is vital in today’s theatrical climate to remember that everyone has to start somewhere, and hopefully there will be potential for growth to come out of this production.
Fallout is playing at the Balmain Exchange Hotel until the 27th of March. For more information see: http://smokinggumtheatre.com/fallout/